In late Summer of 2017, I married my best friend and life partner Nate. Our wedding was set in an avocado orchard in Tauranga, under a brilliant blue sky peppered with white clouds, and attended by an intimate party of family and close friends.
Two and a half years on, I look back on that day and smile. Of course, there are plenty of reasons why I should be happy – we celebrated love, we danced, we sang and laughed until I felt like the sides of my wedding dress was going to split open. After all, it was a perfect day and a perfect event. Our photos testified to a picture perfect wedding.
But there is a less obvious reason why I smile when I reminisce on our wedding day. And that reason is that we planned our wedding for under $8000 New Zealand dollars and sailed away into our honeymoon sunset with zero dollars of wedding debt.
You heard me right. We planned our perfect wedding for under $8000.
Since my wedding, I have been preaching to the not-yet-converted about how perfect weddings should be defined in our own terms, without the undue influence of magazines, and blogs and Instagram and Pinterest feeds that tell us how to celebrate our love. I have been spreading my experience of budgeting and bargain hunting, with hopes that it can save even just one person from taking on extra debt. I have been harping on and on about spending on what matters long term and saving on what does not. Most of the time, I have been met with hurrahs and high-fives. Sometimes, I am met with haters who would rather hit me over the head with a $8000 wad of cash than to hear me speak of it again.
I will take my chances. To launch Lumina’s How I Did It series, I will be sharing with you how Nate and I kept our wedding under $8000 and jet-setted into newlywed bliss without any money worries. Here’s Part I!
STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE
I used to have a sports coach who would yell at his athletes if he saw any of them glancing around during training sessions. Apart from the occasional peak, we were instructed to focus purely on our lane and ignore what anyone else was doing. This was hard for jittery teenagers, who wanted nothing else than to gage their performance by comparison to others. I was always bad at looking over to other lanes. Not surprisingly, I took several bad falls. There was noone to blame but me – I cared too much what others were doing and not enough about what performance and success meant to me.
In order to plan a wedding of any budget, let alone one that is under $8000, you must first get clear on what your own lane looks like. You would do well to put blinkers on, to stay laser focused on what success means to you and your partner. Magazines, Pinterest feeds, your friend and your friend’s friend will all be happy to impart their views on what a perfect wedding should look, feel and cost. It’s hard to turn away loving, well-meaning advice. But to stay in your own lane, my suggestion is to turn off the external noise and write down a list of what you want to achieve on your wedding day. To have fun with your spouse? To dance until your feet hurt? Get a photo with every single guest? Steal some time with your girlfriends for a feel-good group hug? Your wedding day does not need to feature Swarovski crystals and a designer gown in order for it to be a success. You get to decide what success means. And that decision doesn’t come with a price at all.
For my wedding, I put away the magazines and turned off my wedding blog alerts. In fact, I did no internet research on how to put together a ‘perfect wedding’. Instead, I turned on my intuition and good sense, and planned the wedding from scratch. Nate and I decided our success factors were to have fun, to spend quality time with each other and our parents, and stay within our means.
These clear, simple guidelines guided our every purchase decision. Newsflash: we did stay well within our means!
FIND THE UNUSUAL
Instead of getting married in Auckland, where we were living and where all of our family was based, we decided to get married in the sunny Bay of Plenty. When we started to look for wedding venues, we avoided the popular choices and looked into local farms and gardens instead. We found a garden-turned-avocado orchard, and paid a visit to the venue the following weekend. Even though it was the first venue we visited, we took one look at the orchard and knew it was the venue we wanted. We signed for it on the spot. And the best part was, the venue was very reasonably priced with standard decorations, with garden games included. Score!
Our lesson here was that an out-of-the-way venue can be just as beautiful and hit all the right notes, as one that requires booking two years in advance and a hefty deposit. Be willing to look into farms and family homes that can be rented out for your special day, and be willing to check these venues out in person. Having an open mind also helps. After all, New Zealand is truly a paradise, and it is hard to go wrong wherever you go. Like a good thrift shop hunter, be willing to dig deep and look for the unusual. You’ll thank yourself for bagging an extremely affordable venue that is the backdrop to your perfect wedding.
In Part II, learn about how I got a custom–made wedding dress for $600, how our catering came to only $1400 for 80 guests and how our floral decorations only set us back $40. Stay tuned to <How I Did It> on Lumina’s blog.
Christine, of Lumina New Zealand